Ground beef is an excellent ingredient because it can be used in so many different dishes. It is a versatile type of meat that is easy to cook, and thoroughly enjoyable in any dish that it is an ingredient in.
With meat that is so easy to cook and so yummy to eat, the last thing you want is for your ground beef to go to waste because you were unable to cook it before its use-by date.
With that in mind, this is the ultimate guide to everything you need to know about ground beef, including freezing, defrosting, and cooking after it has been defrosted. So if that’s what you are looking for, please read on.
What is ground beef?
Before we go any further, we must get a clear understanding of what ground beef is. Ground beef is a cut of meat that has been finely chopped with a knife and is sometimes known as minced beef.
This meat is used in a variety of different dishes and is a common ingredient in lots of different recipes.
However, you will most commonly find ground beef in the recipe for the Italian dish of a spaghetti bolognese, or when you are making homemade hamburgers.
Unlike other meat that comes off of a cow, ground beef is not referred to by its ‘cut’ name, instead, it is described by the format it is bought in, ground. Ground beef does not generally come from one specific part of the cow.
Instead, it is generally made from the less tender, and less sought-after cuts of beef, which are ground into smaller pieces to disguise that they are not a good cut of meat.
It is also common for offcuts of tender cuts to be included within ground beef to avoid any unnecessary waste.
While it is not a cut of beef that can be eaten alone, ground beef is an excellent ingredient in lots of excellent recipes. However, anyone who has experience cooking with ground beef will be aware of how misleading it can be.
When you buy a packet of ground beef it might appear like you have lots of the meat, however, it shrinks significantly when you begin cooking it.
So now that we’ve taken a look at what ground beef is, let’s take a look at how you prepare ground beef.
Preparing ground beef
Now that we’ve established what ground beef, let’s take a look at how you should prepare ground beef before you freeze it. As we’ve already mentioned, ground beef is a very popular ingredient in a variety of popular household dishes.
It is a key ingredient in chili, tacos, spaghetti Bolognese, and burgers. Due to its different forms that it takes in different dishes, it is popular for people to prepare their ground beef for the dishes that it will be used in before it is frozen.
This is also a good idea if you have bulk bought a lot of ground beef and would prefer to make it more freezer-friendly in size.
We would recommend that before freezing your beef, you think about the dishes that you want to use it in. If you have an idea of which meals you will prepare with the meat, this will allow you to weigh the amount of meat that you need for each dish before freezing.
This means that when you are ready to use the ground beef, all you need to do is defrost the bag of ground beef that you prepared earlier.
This will speed up your cooking time after defrosting, as you will only be defrosting the exact amount of meat that you need for that dish.
It will also reduce wastage, as the rest of the ground beef (aside from what you portioned for that dish) will remain frozen while the portion that you took out will be defrosted.
This reduces wastage, as ground beef cannot be refrozen once defrosted, so portioning will ensure that you only defrost what you need at that time.
You may also want to consider preparing the ground beef if you are looking to use it to make homemade burgers.
Preparing your ground beef into burgers before freezing will significantly reduce the preparation time needed when you want to cook the burgers.
They are so easy to prepare, and a scrumptious meal for both barbeques and family meals. Just in case you wanted to use your ground beef in homemade burgers, but don’t have a recipe to follow, we’ve included this quick burger recipe.
Homemade Burger Recipe
If you want a quick recipe to follow to make your ground beef into homemade burgers, you are in the right place.
This is a great recipe to follow, and a quick way to throw together burgers ready to freeze for future use.
You will need:
- 500g Ground Beef
- 1 Small Diced Onion
- 1 Egg
Once you have gathered and prepared your ingredients, you should add the ground beef, diced onion, and egg into a large bowl. You should mix these ingredients thoroughly before dividing the mixture into 4.
With slightly wet hands, you should roll these 4 sections of the mixture into balls. In the palm of your left hand, place the tennis ball-shaped ground beef mixture.
Using your right hand, you should flatten these balls until they form a patty that is approximately 3cm thick. Following this, your burgers are ready for cooking or freezing depending on your preference.
Freezing ground beef
Now that you know how to prepare your ground beef, let’s move onto freezing it. By now, you probably will have guessed that ground beef is safe to freeze.
Just like the majority of meats, ground beef handles freezing extremely well, and its texture is barely altered by the freezing process. The freezing process is very simple, but you have a few different options depending on how you want to prepare the ground beef for preparing.
If you are not bothered about preparing the ground beef for future meals before freezing it, you can simply place the vacuum-packed packet of ground beef in the freezer.
However, if you do not fully trust the packaging, you could also transfer the ground beef over to a freezer bag, or an airtight container depending on your preference.
If you are going to go to the effort of transferring the meat into airtight containers, you may as well weigh it out for future use.
While you might not have an exact idea of what dishes you will use the beef in, most dishes that contain ground beef will use approximately 500g in the recipe.
Based on this, you might choose to divide your ground beef up into 500g portions so that you can simply take one box out of the freezer when you want to use it.
We have also mentioned that you might choose to freeze ground beef after you have already prepared it into patties for burgers. If you have chosen to do this, we would recommend wrapping each patty up in clingfilm to prevent any moisture from getting into the patty during the freezing process.
After you have wrapped all of the patties in clingfilm, we would then recommend placing all of these patties into an airtight container before placing them in the freezer for future use.
Once the ground beef has been frozen, it will be safe to eat for anywhere up to 4 months. This is significantly longer than the time it would be safe to eat when kept in the fridge.
When freezing your homemade burgers, we would recommend eating them as soon as possible for the best results.
This is mainly because the recipe includes egg as a binding ingredient, so you do not want to leave them in the freezer for too long or the texture and taste may become altered.
But that is just the freezing process, let’s take a look at how you defrost your ground beef when you want to use it.
Defrosting ground beef
Freezing your ground beef is easy, and as is common in most cases, the defrosting process is simple too. The best method of defrosting for you will depend on how quickly you want to be able to use the beef.
Just like many foods that have been frozen, for the best results, we would recommend thawing your ground beef softly and slowly. However, we are well aware that this is not always possible, so we have included some quicker defrosting methods too.
For this method, all you need to do is take the container that holds your ground beef out of the freezer and transfer it into the fridge approximately 24 hours before you want to use it.
You should place the container onto a plate before placing it in the fridge to avoid any possible moisture from the meat contaminating your fridge during the freezing process. Once defrosted in this way, the ground beef will be safe to eat for 1-2 days which gives you lots of flexibility in how you eat your defrosted ground beef.
If this method is too slow for you, we do have a quicker method that you can use. If you want to use your ground beef within 1 hour of taking it out of the freezer, we would recommend defrosting it in a bowl of cold water.
This might seem a bit strange as you would expect cold water to keep the ground beef frozen, but it is a highly effective way to get it to defrost. To do this, you need to fill a bowl full of cold water before adding the ground beef to the water, ensuring that it is a completely airtight and leak-proof container.
It is extremely important that the water remains cold otherwise you are at risk of bacteria developing on the beef, so you should either add ice cubes to the water or regularly change it throughout the hour. With this method, speed is key so you should cook the ground beef immediately after it is defrosted to avoid bacteria growing on the meat.
Your final option is to defrost the ground beef in the microwave. This is the quickest method, but it is also the way that is most likely to cause damage to the taste and texture of the meat.
To defrost in the microwave, you should transfer the meat onto a plate and heat on 50% power for 2-3 minutes, flipping the meat every 45 seconds. Once defrosted, you should cook the meat immediately to prevent any bacterial growth.
Cooking ground beef that has been frozen
Now, let’s move onto the all-important question, ‘Can you cook frozen ground beef?’. We have already established that it is possible to freeze ground beef, and defrost it before cooking, but is it possible to cook ground beef from frozen? Let’s take a look.
The answer is yes, you can cook ground beef from frozen, and you have several different options of what you use to cook it. Before we determine which is the best option, let’s take a look at the different ways you can do this.
The first way that you can cook ground beef from frozen is on the stove. It is more common for you to cook defrosted ground beef, however, it is possible to cook the beef from frozen too. To do this, you should prepare the pan as normal before adding an inch of water to it along with the lump of ground beef.
When the water starts to simmer you will notice that the exterior of the beef has started to brown, you should scrape this layer off to reveal the pink interior of the ground beef.
As the water starts to boil off, you should continually refill it throughout the cooking process, and continue to scrape off the layers of ground beef as they brown. Once all of your ground beef has browned, it is ready to eat.
Another common way that you can use to cook the ground beef is in an instant pot, and to steam it slowly. To do this, you should place your ground beef onto a steamer insert inside the pot so that it cooks evenly during the time they are within the pot.
Add a cup of water to the pot alongside the ground beef, and close the lid. You should cook the beef on high pressure and within 25-30 minutes, you will have cooked and defrosted beef which is ready to eat in whichever dish you want.
Alternatively, you might choose to cook your frozen ground beef in a pressure cooker. This method is extremely similar to cooking the ground beef in an instant pot so you should follow the same method, but ensure that you change the pressure down to low right at the end of the 25 minutes.
All of these methods cover ground beef that has not been prepared for any particular purpose, however, they are not appropriate for ground beef that has been prepared for use as hamburgers. If you have frozen hamburgers, you have a variety of options to defrost and cook it simultaneously.
The first is to use an air fryer. To do this, simply place the patties in the air fryer and close the lid. You should then cook the patties in the air fryer at 375 degrees for 15-20 minutes for them to be ready to eat. Alternatively, you may choose to cook the burgers in the oven.
This will take approximately 1 hour with your oven at 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Finally, you could cook your burgers on the grill directly from frozen. This will extend the cooking time but your burgers will still be ready to eat within 20 minutes as long as the grill has been preheated before.
In short, there are lots of different ways that you can cook ground beef that has been frozen.
Of course, you could just defrost the meat before cooking it, but if you do not have the time for this, you can simply cook from frozen.
If you have prepared your ground beef into hamburger form, we would recommend cooking it on the grill should you want to cook from frozen.
Alternatively, if your ground beef has not been prepared before freezing, we would recommend cooking it on your stove.
This does require you to constantly watch the meat, however, it is the safest way to ensure that the beef has been completely defrosted and cooked ready for you to eat.
Ultimately, you should consider your situation and choose the method that works best for you.